By Kayla Knock and Ellie Dullea
Pharmacies serve as an important community-based access point for vaccinations and have the potential to better serve children by participating in the federal Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. The VFC program is a federally funded program that provides vaccines at no cost to children who might not otherwise be vaccinated because of inability to pay. While all 52 states and territories allow pharmacists to vaccinate adults, not all states allow pharmacies to participate in the VFC program. Further, additional barriers such as differing state laws and regulations, retail pharmacy policies and pharmacists’ scope of practice can limit a state’s ability to deliver vaccinations to VFC-eligible children through pharmacies.
Across the U.S., vaccination rates and well-child visits are declining. According to data released by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 2.5 million fewer orders for routine vaccines (excluding flu vaccine) provided through the federally funded Vaccines for Children (VFC) program from mid-March to mid-April 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. And in Colorado, vaccinations have declined by an estimated 40% since the beginning of March.
By Stephanie Wasserman, MSPH
Executive Director, Immunize Colorado
The COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused over 2.6 million cases around the world and is growing each day, has shown us—in the most alarming way—the indisputable value of vaccines. And though we are at least a year away from having an effective COVID-19 vaccine, we do need to remember that we already have many available vaccines that are safe and highly effective against dozens of dangerous and sometimes deadly diseases that once ran rampant across the globe. Most of us have never seen the ravages of polio or measles, but these diseases can come roaring back if we do not stay vigilant about maintaining high vaccination rates.
The COVID-19 virus has quickly spread across the globe, causing half a million cases and nearly 40,000 deaths. In the U.S., we’ve seen over 160,000 reported cases as of March 30, and the actual number is likely much higher. Disease is spreading rapidly, and health systems are struggling to keep pace. Across the country, non-essential businesses are being required to shut their doors, schools are closing—some for the remainder of the school year—, and state governors are issuing Stay-At-Home orders requiring that people not leave their homes unless absolutely necessary.
We are living in a new and uncertain reality. But to many, the fear and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 is familiar. This is not the first time our society has experienced a pandemic like COVID-19; it is not the first time that people have been afraid to leave their homes, or that healthcare workers have struggled to keep pace with the number of cases.